Inside Einstein December 2011

Research Roundup & Grants

Medical Translation  On Friday, December 9, 2011,  the Einstein-Montefiore Institute for Clinical & Translational Research hosted "Translating Clinical Research into Better Health." The event featured a keynote presentation by Dr. Philip Greenland, the Harry W. Dingman Professor and senior associate dean for clinical and translational research at Northwestern University School of Medicine. The lecture was held in Montefiore Medical Center's Cherkasky Auditorium.


Expert Help A walk-in biostatistics consultation service is available. Investigators can drop by every Tuesday from 3 to 5 p.m. in Belfer 1006E to receive advice about their projects from statisticians on a variety of topics, including study design, biostatistics analyses and novel methodologies.


Stay Connected — The December 2011 issue of ICTR Connections is now available for viewing via the Einstein-Montefiore Institute for Clinical & Translational Research website.


Einstein Perspectives  The currrent issue of the Einstein Journal of Biology and Medicine (EJBM) is now available at locations throughout the Jack and Pearl Resnick Campus. Highlights from this edition include the medical student perspective on healthcare reform in the United States, a review of recent progress toward a bionic eye, and an intriguing new hypothesis on the basis of human cognition. Or, view a full-color, interactive edition of EJBM.


Faster Treatment Physician-scientists at Einstein and Montefiore have secured a grant to establish a clinical site for the Network for Excellence in Neuroscience Clinical Trials (NeuroNEXT). The grant could pave the way for treatment of rare neurological diseases and clues to more-common ones. The Einstein–Montefiore site, one of only 25 such federally funded centers in the country, is being created in partnership with Beth Israel Medical Center and the North Shore–Long Island Jewish Health System.


Spiritual Assist A study involving more than 92,000 postmenopausal women enrolled in the nationwide Women’s Health Initiative found that women who reported attending weekly religious services in the previous month were less likely to be depressed, more likely to be optimistic and more likely to report overall positive social support compared with women attending services less often. The senior author of the study, which appears in the November issue of the Journal of Religious Health, was Dr. Sylvia Wassertheil-Smoller, professor of epidemiology & population health. The lead author was Dr. Eliezer Schnall, an assistant professor at Yeshiva University.


Evaluating Hypertension Experience in the first 16 years of a worksite-based  hypertension treatment program involving nearly 3,800 patients showed that measurements of plasma renin activity (PRA) at baseline added to information provided by Framingham scores in predicting risk of death from cardiovascular disease. Coupled with evidence  that the PRA test improves selection of an optimal hypertensive drug, these results suggest that measurement of PRA should be part of the routine evaluation of the hypertensive patient. The senior author of the study, appearing in the November 11 issue of the American Journal of Hypertension, was Dr. Michael Alderman, distinguished university professor emeritus in the departments of epidemiology & population health and of medicine.


Pathway to a Cure Research by Dr. Suzanne Zukin that ties mTOR, an intracellular signaling pathway important in cancer, diabetes, and heart disease to fragile X syndrome, a genetic disease that leads to intellectual disabilities and autism, was featured on the Simons Foundation website. The web story focuses on how the discovery has led to studies of drugs that can inhibit mTOR signaling to treat patients with fragile X syndrome. These translational studies will create a foundation for generating novel therapeutic strategies to ameliorate this serious human condition. Dr. Zukin is the F. M. Kirby Chair in Neural Repair and Protection, Director of the Neuropsychopharmacology Center and professor of neuroscience.


Interesting Development  Dr. Nicholas Baker and graduate student Abhishek Bhattacharya have uncovered a pair of proteins that govern how cells become specialized during development. Their findings, published in the online edition of the journal Cell, could lead to significant developments in stem cell research and its impact on human health and disease. Dr. Baker is professor of genetics, of developmental and molecular biology and of ophthalmology and visual sciences.


Your Brain on Glucose  Researchers led by Drs. Meredith Hawkins and Preeti Kishore have demonstrated for the first time that the brain is a key player in regulating glucose metabolism in humans. Their findings, published in a recent online edition of the Journal of Clinical Investigation, suggest that drugs targeting the brain and central nervous system could be a novel approach to treating diabetes. Dr. Hawkins is professor of medicine and Dr. Kishore is assistant clinical professor of medicine.


Manipulating Cancer  A team of researchers led by Dr. Ana Maria Cuervo has discovered a way to interrupt the natural recycling process of cells, known as autophagy, needed for tumor growth and the spread of cancer known as metastasis. The findings, published in the November 16 edition of Science Translational Medicine, could lead to new treatments for cancer. Dr. Cuervo is professor of developmental and molecular biology, of medicine and of anatomy and structural biology.


Soccer Side Effects A new study by Dr. Michael Lipton has shown that repeatedly heading a soccer ball increases the risk for brain injury and cognitive impairment. The study, especially significant considering how popular the sport is around the world, could lead to future research efforts aimed at developing approaches to protect soccer players. Dr. Lipton is associate director of the Gruss Magnetic Resonance Research Center and associate professor of radiology, of psychiatry and behavioral sciences and of neuroscience.


Cancer Link Einstein researchers, led by Dr. Geoffrey Kabat, have discovered that elevated blood sugar levels are associated with an increased risk of colorectal cancer. The findings, which appear in a recent online edition of the British Journal of Cancer, will lead to other studies to discover the mechanism by which chronically elevated blood glucose levels may lead to colorectal cancer. Dr. Kabat is senior epidemiologist in epidemiology & population health.



Beating the Spread  The National Cancer Institute has awarded Einstein researchers, led by Drs. John Condeelis, Vladislav Verkhusha and Aviv Bergman, two grants totaling $8 million to study the microenvironments that drive metastasis. Researchers hope the findings will help prevent the spread of cancer from a primary tumor to other parts of the body. Dr. Condeelis is the Judith and Burton P. Resnick Chair in Translational Research, co-director of the Gruss Lipper Biophotonics Center, scientific director of the Analytical Imaging Facility and co-chair and professor of anatomy and structural biology. Dr. Verkhusha is professor of anatomy and structural biology. Dr. Bergman is chair and professor of systems & computational biology, and professor of pathology and of neuroscience.


Dr. Louis Weiss was awarded a $2.1 million grant over five years by the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases to study the cyst wall of Toxoplasma gondii, a widespread parasite that usually lies dormant in patients, but can be reactivated when the immune system is stressed, such as in patients with congenital toxoplasmosis or in patients with AIDS. Under these conditions, the dormant bradyzoite stage of Toxoplasma can cause significant brain pathology, as cysts filled with hibernating parasites can reactivate frequently causing localized damageto the central nervous system. The cyst wall surrounding the bradyzoites has been shown to contain many stage-specific proteins; they may hold the key to understanding their biology and what causes them to reactivate in disease-causing forms.  Dr. Weiss plans to use proteomic, immunologic and genetic approaches to identify novel components of the cyst wall, taking advantage of special purification techinques that his laboratory has previously developed for this structure.  Because Toxoplasma can be transmitted through contaminated water and food, these studies will shed light on this parasite, which poses a significant threat to public health. Dr. Weiss is a professor of medicine and pathology.


Dr. Robert Singer was awarded a $1.3 million grant over four years by the National Institutes of Health to study the activity of individual genes, using state-of-the-art microscopy techniques that were pioneered in his laboratory. Using differently colored fluorescent probes that can bind to any gene of interest, Dr. Singer’s laboratory team will observe the rate and frequency of various steps in which the target gene is transcribed, or read, by the cell. The technology is sensitive enough to follow a single gene molecule, which will allow comparisons among different cells and an estimation of the variability in the process of gene transcription. This work will provide insights into the fundamental cellular processes involved in gene transcription, laying the groundwork for understanding what goes wrong in a variety of diseases that have a genetic, or hereditary, component. Dr. Singer is professor and co-chair of anatomy and structural biology, co-director of the Gruss Lipper Biophotonics Center and professor of neuroscience and of cell biology.


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